Chilling video shows Iran-backed rebel commandos hijack a cargo ship during a helicopter raid

  • Iran-backed Houthi rebels hijacked an internationally flagged cargo ship in the Red Sea on Sunday.

  • A new video published by the militants show them carrying out a helicopter raid of the vessel.

  • The Yemen-based group said the incident was related to Israel's ongoing war against Hamas.

A new video shared by the Houthi rebel group captures the Iran-backed militants conducting a dramatic helicopter raid of an internationally flagged cargo ship in the Red Sea and hijacking the vessel, taking its entire crew hostage.

The chilling footage, which is nearly four minutes long and was published on Monday by the Yemen-based Houthis, shows snippets of how the ship seizure unfolded the day before. It begins by showing the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader from afar, before cutting to a helicopter landing on the deck — an aggressive operation even by Iranian standards.

Multiple militants armed with rifles can be seen exiting the helicopter and storming the deck, taking positions as they approach the bridge of the vessel, before entering the pilothouse and yelling at a handful of crewmembers. Additional footage shows some of the rebels operating from other locations inside the ship, as well as footage that captures the Galaxy Leader sailing in the middle of several smaller speedboats.

A Houthi spokesperson said on Sunday that the rebel group hijacked the ship because it was connected to Israel, and issued a warning to all ships associated with Israel that they will become "a legitimate target" for military action. The spokesperson suggested to countries with citizens working in the Red Sea that they should avoid association with Israel-affiliated ships.


But Israeli officials have pushed back on this. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a Telegram statement on Sunday that the Galaxy Leader is not an Israeli ship, and had departed from Turkey on its way to India. Publicly available shipping data from as recent as Saturday shows the vessel was halfway through its south-bound transit of the Red Sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the ship is owned by a British company and operated by a Japanese firm, although it is reportedly affiliated with an Israeli billionaire. The office said the 25 crewmembers on board are a handful of nationalities, including Ukrainian and Mexican, but none of them are Israeli. It "strongly" condemned what it asserted was an "Iranian attack."

"This is another act of Iranian terrorism and constitutes a leap forward in Iran's aggression against the citizens of the free world, with international consequences regarding the security of the global shipping lanes," Netanyahu's office said. Iran's naval activities around the Middle East — including ship hijackings and the smuggling of weapons to the Houthis — have long troubled Western militaries, and US officials frequently slam Tehran for actions they say are destabilizing.

Meanwhile, the condition of the hostages aboard the Galaxy Leader is unknown, and the Japanese government is reportedly working to secure their release through negotiations with the Houthis. The shipping company, NYK Line, said on Monday that there was no cargo aboard the ship when it was seized near Hodeida, on Yemen's west coast. It's unclear where, exactly, the ship is now, although the Houthi spokesperson said after confirming its capture that it was being brought to Yemen's coast.

"The Yemeni armed forces deal with the ship's crew in accordance with the principle and values of our Islamic religion," the spokesperson said. They added that the Houthis will continue to target Israeli assets until the country stops its war against Hamas, although Israel — and the US — have ruled out doing so and continue to stress the need to crush Hamas entirely over its responsibility in the October 7 terror attacks.

Since that day, the Houthis have fired multiple waves of drones and missiles at Israel, forcing the country to activate the upper level of its sophisticated air-defense network. US Navy warships in the Red Sea have also shot down Houthi threats on more than one occasion, most recently downing a drone last week. Adding to their list of provocations, Houthi militants in early November even shot down a US military MQ-9 Reaper drone off the coast of Yemen.

The Houthis are one of multiple Iran-backed groups that have stepped up attacks against Israel and the US since the start of the ongoing war. Hezbollah militants in Lebanon continue to engage with IDF troops in cross-border attacks on a daily bases, and Tehran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria have launched dozens of rocket and drone attacks on US forces stationed across the two countries.

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